When Your Passion Pays You. Cerena Robertson
Cerena is a rising Freshman at Temple University, she recently graduated from The Episcopal Academy. She started doing visual art at a young age, around 5 or 6 years old. From then on she practiced drawing people and shapes.
When she was 12 , she got serious about her art and began working with shading ,highlights, proportions and more. However her supplies were limited to a number two pencil because of the poorly financed art program at my elementary/middle school. When she began attending the Episcopal Academy as a freshman in 2015, she started using more supplies after being introduced to different styles and material. She started selling her artwork as she began improving with the supplies, and by my sophomore year she created a small business with selling her work through Instagram. she still does art commissions to this day, and she is going into Temple for visual arts but, will also do performing arts throughout college.
What Got you into art, were you inspired by a certain artist as a child or was it naturally a passion of yours?
It was naturally a passion. I remember in preschool I saw a lady drawing a three dimensional house and from then on I wanted to do that, and more.
When It Comes To Your Own Style, How Would You Describe It, What Is It Inspired By And Is There A Specific Theme?
My own style is semi realistic, although I can do realistic paintings I prefer to have a blended style like that because, I can add many aesthetic elements to it.
Did You Go Through Challenges And/or Failures When First Trying To Sell Your Paintings?
Yes, many people would want me to lower my prices even though my prices were already low. And many others wanted free artwork. I was making art during a time where it was a trend for people to easily create digital drawings of random people with a free iPhone app for fun, and a lot of my past audience thought that my artwork- that I used traditional supplies for- should either be super cheap or free. So i grew my audience by doing artwork in exchange for shoutouts from popular pages , and from there my page grew a different audience. Then I started gaining popularity on my own by making time lapse videos of my artwork. After gaining a lot of following from a new, art loving audience , I started getting more art requests. But I then faced the challenge of juggling my schedule. Because I got hundreds of people wanting my artwork and I had to pick my customers based off of what I thought I could do in my limited free time, because for my four years of high school, I attended a very prestigious , very time-consuming and very academically challenging school. And in addition to the academics , I was doing musical theatre , one of the presidents of two clubs , and more while juggling the artwork. So selling my paintings was something I had to squeeze in there.
Do You Remember The First Art piece you sold, what did i it feel like?
The first piece I sold was back in middle school when I did lined paper drawings for people for $2-$5 each. It felt great and I bought candy with the money But if we are talking about actual serious artwork selling, the first piece I sold was for a friend, of her friend. And it was a drawing for $45 (what would be worth $125 now).
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years i see myself being well known , but not too known. OR, I just go MIA but I’ll still be doing big things like maybe Broadway or owning my own art company, or both! My dream is to be in professional musical theatre and have a job with a small company working in the background that I own.
Would you say your passion for art and theater are intertwined?
I feel like my passion for art stems from how long I’ve been working on it , and my passion for theatre is separate but still super huge. When I was younger I would always be doing art but was super interested in musicals and performing but didn’t have any skill to perform, because I never thought I could do it. And when I went to high school and did my first musical I was hooked, and by my sixth show I knew I didn’t want to stop. But both visual art and performing art are demanding fields . I’m really leaning more towards musical theatre now but I don’t wanna leave painting and drawing behind
Who are 5 artists you would like to collaborate with?
And Jazza from YouTube
What kind of impact would you like to have on the world?
I’d like to show young people, especially young black kids in Philadelphia that they can be anything they want to be in life. You don’t have to be a doctor, lawyer, scientist, basketball player, or studio artist to be successful. A lot of young black boys growing up in the hood in Philadelphia are convinced in and/ or out of school that they’d be successful if they get in the NBA , NFL, or become rappers. And in school we’re all taught that academics is the only path to success. As a young girl I wanted to sing and draw and act, but no one ever told me how to make that into a career. I was always educated on writers, scientists, historians and etc. but I was never taught that I could chase a career in Broadway or be more than a freelance painter until I worked for three years of my Philadelphia-public-school-life to get into a private high school. The K-12 private education is where I found the most opportunities were given and I learned so much about how I can hone in on my skills to work towards being successful jn many visual art + performing art careers. I would’ve never known about if I stayed in the Philadelphia public school system. Young kids of color in the city are not encouraged as much , if at all to be more and do more than what they see around them.
Does the fact that you have a lot of social media followers helped excel your art career, If so, what are 5 things you tell other artist out there to do, so that they can grow there social media as well?
It definitely does because having a lot of social media followers means my art can reach thousands at a time for free instead of paying hundreds for a two hour art show every time I wanna showcase my art I say show people what you are making, take videos of the progress (people love to see the end result come from a rough beginning), advertise your work, make sure you know the Instagram algorithm, and never post early in the morning on weekdays if you want a post to flourish
-I see many African women in your paintings, what is the inspiration behind that?
I paint and draw a lot of women of color not just because of the lack of women of color seen in paintings - I do it because it’s so fun to experiment with the colors on darker complexions. Light values and shadows just pop, and so do bright colors against the rich shades of brown
What Was Your Most Meaningful Piece And Why?
The purpose of this painting is to point out not only the general/universal beauty standards (left) , but even in the black community, dark skin girls have to look a certain way to be considered beautiful and this is what I am portraying in this painting. Not only is it called beautiful if you are light skinned, etc., but dark skin girls have to have long curly hair, sharp jawline, glowing skin, fleeky eyebrows, etc. In order to be considered "beautiful". The message is, No matter what you look like, you are beautiful.
-If You had To Replace Your Self With The Life Of Another Artist, Who Would It Be? And Why?
If I could put myself in another artist’s shoes, I’d put myself in Beyoncé’s. It’s not a widely known thing, but Beyoncé does paintings as well. I’d like to see her work so badly because I know that she puts her all into her pieces. They must all be super passionate and/or fun or powerful because she does them for therapeutic reasons as well.
-Cerena's Advice For You!
And my advice for artists would be to not compare yourself to others to point out negative things about your work, and saying someone else is “better” than you. That’s like comparing apples to oranges. Instead look for ways to change up your style and improve your own skill.
"I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite." -- G. K. Chesterton